Digital Ads: What’s the Difference Between Geotargeting & Geofencing?
Published: October 03, 2019 (8 min read)
Confused by which type of geographic marketing to target for your business? Learn the difference between geotargeting and geofencing, and explore which method will best fit your business objectives.
Geofencing and geotargeting are two marketing terms that because of their close variant meaning are often used interchangeably. If you work with any type of paid digital marketing, you’ve likely run across these terms before. Because there is so much industry confusion around these terms, let’s break down the differences so you can feel confident about using them correctly.
The Scoop on Geofencing
Geofencing means drawing a virtual ‘geographical fence’ around a given area. This concept gets a little tricky when we throw in the fact that this fence is determined by a device’s global positioning system (GPS) or internet protocol (IP) address, which is your virtual address. People who are in this virtual boundary (set by the advertiser) will be shown advertisements on their computer, mobile device, or tablet as they browse the web. The size of a geofence can be anywhere from a radius around a given address or location to an entire city or state. However, when most people refer to a geofence they are talking about a tight radius around a given location.
A fallacy surrounding geofencing is that when someone is physically located in that geofence area, they will automatically begin to receive push notifications, or text messages to their device, which is untrue. Instead, what geofencing does is to show these ads (that are using geofencing) to the person inside the geofenced area as they are browsing the web, to alert them of a local deal, or even the distance from a store location.
So How Does Geofencing Differ from Geotargeting?
Geotargeting refers to delivering ads to people who meet a specific ‘targeting’ criteria and enter a defined radius (using the same geofencing location technology). The key differentiator in these two targeting methods is that geotargeting homes in on a specific consumer targeting criteria such as behavior, demographic, interest, and may even considers the user’s location. When using geotargeting, your virtual border will be significantly bigger than a geofence. This is because you aren’t showing your ads to everyone in this geofenced area unless they also match the targeting criteria in place. Therefore, you will usually need a much wider radius to target people who will fall into both the location and targeting criteria.
How to Choose
If you’re unsure which GEO method is best for your business, consider who your target audience is. Are you interested in advertising to people of all ages and interests? Then geofencing is best. Or do you prefer to advertise to a specific consumer demographic that is more of a niche? Geotargeting may be better suited for you.